For Xiu Xiu’s latest, Stewart found deadline “pressure more than anything was the solution” to writing lyrics.
Asked how San Diego treats his now-L.A.–based band Xiu Xiu, singer Jamie Stewart tells the Reader via email: “It has been mixed. There have been shows that were totally sold out and the people were incredibly enthusiastic and there have been shows where there were ten people and I have no idea why they came and they really did not seem to want to be there. It is always a roll of the dice for us. Nothing wrong with that, though.... We have played at Ché Café, Casbah, Soda Bar, house shows...”
Xiu Xiu, playing Soda Bar on March 25, takes oddity and randomness in stride, though. Over 12 years and 12 albums of original material, they’ve pushed discordant noise and provocation as far as any band could and still, just barely, be called pop-rock. They named themselves after a Chinese film and named their current album Angel Guts: Red Classroom after a Japanese skin flick.
Explains Stewart on the new direction for the record: “John Congleton, who mixed our record Always, which was an incredibly dense art-pop record, suggested we go the other direction with Angel Guts — spare, simple, and dark. Pop fell away from heart. It is an homage to Suicide, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nico, and Kraftwerk. In the past, we used every sound we could find and with this new one it is only a drum set, analog synth, and analog drum machine.
“Despite its simplicity,” Stewart continues, “it was quite difficult to write after having been devoted to more complicated arrangements in the past. Reorienting the approach took longer than I thought, despite it feeling so right conceptually. I was writing lyrics and recording vocals until the last week before the deadline. Pressure more than anything was the solution.”
Stewart’s fresh and bushy-tailed from a recent move to L.A. from North Carolina, saying the only thing he misses about the South is “a bar called ‘Whiskey.’” On Los Angeles 2014, he opines: “I grew up here but had not lived here since I was 20. I was surprised by how much it improved in fundamental ways. Less violence, better air quality, better food, less traffic. It is at times confusing in an amusing way to be some place that is at once very familiar but also quite evolved.”